So how did you get on with last month’s gardening jobs? I have to admit that the awful weather prevented me from getting out into the garden on several days, and many jobs have slipped into April. If you are in the same position as me, make sure that you complete March’s gardening jobs as soon as you can. Many jobs such as planting onions and shallot sets cannot wait until later in the month.
- Harden off plants by exposing them to outdoor conditions for part of the day. This way, they can better cope with the environment when the time comes to plant out.
- Early April is the traditional time to plant potatoes. I started chitting my potatoes in egg boxes last month, but so far, the shoots are not long enough to put them in the ground. Ideally, they should be 2-3 cm long. Don’t wait until they look like lengths of spaghetti!
- Sow directly outdoors – broad beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, leeks, onions, peas, radishes, sprouting broccoli.
- Sow outdoors undercover – beetroot, cucumbers, lettuce, salad leaves and turnips.
- Sow indoors – aubergines, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, French beans, kale, pumpkins/winter squashes, runner beans and tomatoes.
- Continue the regular task of hoeing the vegetable beds. Hoeing the ground even when you can’t see weeds prevents them from sprouting and stops precious water from running off.
- Cover your carrots with a fleece. Ensure the edges are buried to stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by your carrots.
- Strawberries can be planted out in April. In the first year, it is best to remove flowers to allow the plants to conserve their strength. Your patience will be rewarded with larger crops in the following years.
- Hand-pollinate peaches and nectarines by tickling the flowers with a small paintbrush to spread the pollen. You still need to cover them if a cold spell threatens.
Flowers and Shrubs
- After you’ve hardened annuals off, plant them out into well-prepared borders. Make sure you water them thoroughly.
- Plant dahlia tubers:
1. Give dahlia tubers a sprinkling of water early in the month, and they’ll start to produce young shoots. Use this time to check for any tubers that look diseased or damaged and discard them.
2. Once the tubers have sprouted, plant them carefully. A good idea is to pour coarse sand over the tubers before backfilling; this prevents them from rotting and is an excellent slug repellent.
- Continue to deadhead spring-flowering bulbs. Remember to leave the foliage to die back naturally.
- Early flowering primulas should be deadheaded as early as possible to stop them crossbreeding.
- Prune late-flowering shrubs hard in early April.
- Start spraying roses.
- Continue to keep on top of any weeds that make an appearance.
- Sprinkle fertiliser or turf conditioner before the grass really gets going.
- Make sure you keep all edges tidy.
- If you get an opportunity to mow the lawn when there is only a little growth, remove the clippings box and allow the clippings to fall back onto the lawn. As they decompose, they will release up to 30% of the nutrients required by your lawn.
Other Jobs in the Garden
- Deter garden pests – I’ve already mentioned the carrot root fly, but the gardener’s worst enemy is stirring. The evil slugs and snails are coming out to eat entire rows of succulent young seedlings overnight, so take action now.
Here are a few environmentally friendly ideas to deter the slugs:
- Use plants to keep them at bay. Astrantia is an attractive plant that comes in various colours and gives off a scent that repels slugs. Other plants to use as repellents include wormwood, rue, fennel, anise and rosemary.
- Slugs take cover under bricks, garden furniture and logs. If you remove these shelters, you will expose them to natural predators.
- Encourage natural predators such as birds (in particular song thrushes), toads, newts and hedgehogs to help you take care of the problem.
Enjoy your Garden!
WORDS Jaqui Fairfax